DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
18 January 2002
The following is a near-verbatim record of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
Reports from the field indicate heavy traffic carrying civilians and their belongings was observed on the Rwandan road between Gisenyi and Ruhengeri. There was also a lava flow on the road between Goma and Rutshuru, cutting three parts of the road. This is, of course, all in relationship to the eruption in and around Goma.
We have with us today Steven Johnson, who is the acting head of the Humanitarian Emergency Branch of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and in just a few minutes he will give you the latest information that we have from Goma.
Also, we have this statement attributable to the Spokesman on Goma.
"The Secretary-General has learned with deep concern of the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, near Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He notes that this severe natural disaster is occurring in an area that has already suffered from years of conflict.
“He wishes to assure the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda that he will put the assets of the United Nations to full use in assisting them in mitigating the consequences of this disaster. To this end, he has requested Ross Mountain, Assistant Emergency Relief Coordinator, to travel to the region to support the United Nations country teams in coordinating their responses in full consultation with local authorities.
“He notes that members of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team are also en route to the affected area, along with specialists in volcanology. Tomorrow, a MONUC flight will leave Kinshasa for Kigali, carrying 28 metric tonnes of emergency supplies to meet the immediate needs of some 300,000 people who have been displaced by the disaster."
We also have a statement on the subject of the Middle East.
"The Secretary-General is greatly concerned by the continuing deterioration in relations between Israelis and Palestinians. He condemns in the strongest possible terms yesterday’s murderous attack in the Israeli city of Hadera, in which six Israeli citizens were killed, as he has condemned all indiscriminate killings of civilians. The Secretary-General calls on the Palestinian Authority to take immediate and effective action against those responsible.
“At the same time, the Secretary-General remains convinced that peace cannot be achieved through force and that the only way out of the downward spiral of violence, retaliation and counter-violence is through a balanced series of steps that lead back to the negotiating table and restore hope of a peaceful settlement.
“To this end, he calls on both parties to comply fully with the demands made by the “Quartet” in their joint statement of 25 October, the objective of which is to achieve a durable ceasefire and a meaningful dialogue leading to implementation of the Mitchell recommendations and a just and lasting peace based on UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338."
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, attended a ceremony marking the completion of disarmament at the end of the country’s war.
At the ceremony, which took place at Lungi garrison outside Freetown, 2,991 small arms and light weapons collected in the disarmament process were torched in a bonfire lit by Sierra Leone’s President, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, and Ghanaian President John Kufuor.
Adeniji, in his remarks to the people of Sierra Leone, said that “While this day symbolizes an end it also symbolizes a beginning –- a new beginning for more than 46,000 men and women” who have been disarmed. “With the completion of disarmament,” he said, “the reintegration phase will now begin.” The Special Representative emphasized the importance of the reintegration programme for former soldiers and again appealed for financial support.
Among those attending the ceremony was Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader Issa Sissey, the Vice President of Liberia, Moses Blah. Nigeria and Libya also sent representatives.
Meanwhile, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it will next month start repatriating Sierra Leonean refugees from camps in Liberia following a spate of recent spontaneous returns and repeated requests from refugees for UNHCR help in going home. It will be the first UNHCR-assisted return from Liberia since the war erupted in Sierra Leone a decade ago. Many refugees are keen to repatriate so they can vote in the forthcoming May 2002 elections.
On that subject, we have this statement welcoming the development in Sierra Leone.
"The Secretary-General welcomes the formal completion of the disarmament process in Sierra Leone on 11 January 2002. A symbolic bonfire of weapons and ammunition, marking the completion of the process, took place today in Lungi, Sierra Leone, witnessed by several heads of State and Government representatives from the West African subregion.
“The Secretary-General notes that the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in May 2002, the extension of State authority throughout the country, the restoration of ex-combatants, the restoration of Government’s control over natural resources, and the resettlement of returning refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as forging national reconciliation, remain crucial tasks for the peace process, which also require generous support from the international community."
The Secretary-General’s Acting Special Representative for Kosovo, Charles Brayshaw, today condemned the murder last night of an ethnic Albanian Member of the Kosovo Assembly and of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), led by Ibrahim Rugova.
According to United Nations mission police, Ismael Hajdaraj, 50, was traveling in his car near his residence in Pec when he was ambushed by assailants and shot to death. Police say at least two weapons were used.
United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) police immediately launched an intensive investigation into the murder.
This morning the Security Council began an open meeting on Counter- Terrorism.
The Secretary-General opened the meeting by welcoming the spirit of cooperation with which Member States have reacted to the terrorist attacks of 11 September.
Through the work of the Council’s Counter-terrorism Committee, the Secretary-General said, “Member States are for once really using this Organization in the way its founders intended –- as an instrument through which to forge a global defence against a global threat.” He went on to add: “I firmly hope to see the same spirit of unity and resolve manifested in tackling other global threats, ranging from weapons of mass destruction to HIV/AIDS or climate change.”
The Secretary-General pointed out to Council members that terrorists are recruited from alienated, desperate groups, and that if human beings everywhere are given real hope of achieving a decent life, such recruiting would be more difficult.
“Therefore,” he said, “while we certainly need vigilance to prevent acts of terrorism, and firmness in condemning and punishing them, it will be self-defeating if we sacrifice other key priorities -– such as human rights -– in the process.”
Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of the United Kingdom, briefed Council members on the work of the Council’s Counter-terrorism Committee, which he chairs.
We have the full text upstairs of the Secretary-General’s comments.
This meeting is set to run into the afternoon as it has close to 40 speakers inscribed on the list.
From Afghanistan, according to preliminary findings of a United Nations-sponsored survey of Afghan opinion concerning development and human rights issues, Afghans uniformly want peace and security with an emphasis on the disarmament of local military forces.
Rebuilding trust in government authorities is seen as a major challenge. Rural residents place food and work as their first priority, with an emphasis on rehabilitation of agriculture. Rural residents also support education for both girls and boys, but ask for assistance to offset the loss of income from child labor. Urban residents place education, including vocational training, as their first priority.
Survey results are expected to be made available in mid-February.
At the United Nations briefing in Geneva earlier today, the International Committee of the Red Cross talked about its visit to Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, being held by United States authorities.
We also have the humanitarian briefing notes from today.
**United Nations Conference on Climate Change
The Secretary-General has appointed Ms. Joke Waller-Hunter of the Netherlands as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to succeed Michael Zammit Cutajar, who retires on the 31st of this month. The appointment has been made after consultations with the Conference of Parties through its Bureau.
Ms. Joke Waller-Hunter is currently the Environment Director of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). She has previously worked as the Director of the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development. She also worked with the Dutch Government in the earlier years of her career.
**Jerusalem -- Larsen Video
Yesterday in Jerusalem, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Terje Roed Larsen, met with the families of three Israeli soldiers abducted along the Blue Line in October of 2000.
They were shown video material and still photographs found in the possession of the United Nations mission in Lebanon.
Afterwards, Mr. Larsen read a statement to journalists, which we released yesterday afternoon and which is still available upstairs.
Out on the racks today is a letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the General Assembly on the subject of the arrears of the former Yugoslavia in payments to the United Nations. The amount at issue is over $16.2 million and the Secretary-General lays out different options that the General Assembly might wish to consider, including a write-off of the debt.
We have one signing to report today. This morning, Jordan became the 112th country to sign the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
We have another two Member States who became paid in full for their 2002 regular budget contributions -- Malta with payment of more than $166,000, and Norway with more than $7 million.
There are now 29 Member States paid in full.
Several press releases to flag for you. First, from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF, today hailed the entry into force of the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The entry into force comes three months after the tenth ratification, as specified in the Protocol.
On the racks today is the report of the Secretary-General on Implementing Agenda 21. The report says that although some progress had been made in adopting measures to protect the environment, “the world’s environment is still fragile and conservation measures are far from satisfactory”.
In a third press release, the World Health Organization announced today that Baroness Emma Nicholson of the United Kingdom has been appointed as an Envoy for Health, Peace and Development for the Eastern Mediterranean Region. Baroness Nicholson will promote health as a tool for peace and development.
The final press release today is from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Experts from 100 countries, meeting in Geneva, have adopted Technical Guidelines for the Identification and Environmentally Sound Management of Plastic Wastes and for their Disposal.
Then we have the Week Ahead, which you can pick up in my Office.
Any questions before we go to Steve Johnson?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Do you have any more information about the murder of the ethnic Albanian in Kosovo?
Spokesman: No, I don't have any details on that. You would have to contact the mission to see if they have anything more to give you. What I've given you is what they gave us this morning.
Question: Do you have any details about the Afghan poll -- how many people and where they were polled?
Spokesman: No, I don't have anything more with me, but maybe check with my Office after the briefing in case we have anything more.
Question: Fred, how long will you be gone?
Spokesman: Two weeks.
Thank you very much. Okay, Steve, what can you tell us about what's happening in Goma?
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